Homeschooling doesn't mean that we are isolated from the real world. In fact, because we don't spend our days holed up in a classroom, but rather out in the world, even if just virtually, we get a lot more "real" world than the average kid, I think.
I say that, because my children see things and know things and are able to process things in a very safe environment, where they can ask questions or formulate opinions about the things they see and discuss these things with someone who is (probably) a bit more experienced than they are, but who won't pass judgment. Yeah, that's me.
I'm making these observations, not to say our way is the best way, or to make any disparaging comparisons between our homeschooling and public schooling, but rather, because our very different lifestyle gives my children the opportunity to view peer behavior a lot more objectively. It's not unusual for us to have a discussion about how someone they know behaves - badly - and sometimes those who are the most ill-behaved are the ones who should know better. It's interesting to hear their thoughts when they've witnessed an adult have, what is basically, a tantrum, or worse, when an adult supposes some superiority over them and treats them with the unwarranted disrespect that some adults feel is their right, solely because they are adults and my children are ... children.
I also love how they are able to express themselves - at least to me - without fear, and I love that I can have thoughtful conversations with them. They're smart, and I don't have to work hard to remember, because they are really, very smart - not in an arrogant I know more than you teenager-angst way, but in a I've thought about this, and read some stuff about it and have a fairly well-informed opinion kind of way. I've learned to listen to them. I mean, really, really listen.
I have never been an authoritarian parent with them. Once, when we were hiring a new doctor, I had to fill out a questionnaire. One of the questions regarded how we discipline. I answered honestly. I don't. We don't discipline. Today, we were standing in line at the coffee shop. It was the middle of the day, right around lunch time, and they were really busy. We waited, chatting amicably about what we wanted, or some other silly thing we were discussing ... oh, wait, it was the clothespin game, I started with them, and so we were laughing and joking with each other - not raucously, but just having fun and waiting our turn - no hurry. The woman in line in front of us commented, mostly to my children, "You're being very patient", and she had observed that three or four people had, essentially, skipped line in front of us and gone to the other register. We hadn't noticed or didn't even think about it, actually. We were just waiting and laughing about being tagged with the clothespin.
That's the way it is for us, most of the time. I get a lot of compliments about how well behaved my girls are, and if I said that I don't discipline, that they don't throw tantrums, that they don't get out of sorts, like I hear of other children doing, most parents wouldn't believe me, but it's true. Yes, they get angry, and so do I. We're not perfect, but never could I honestly complain about my daughters' behavior or call them "bad." Never. They are never bad.
We are unschoolers, and what that means is that I have had to let go of my need to control and trust. The paradox is that the more I trust them, the more trustworthy they become. The trust had to come first. It was never something I expected them to earn, but rather, like believing that all people are innocent until proven guilty, I just always assume that they are being honest, and they don't disappoint me.
I am thankful that, when Deus Ex Machina and I had a decision to make, we were in a position to choose homeschooling, and that we took the time to explore our options and found unschooling, because unschooling just flowed so naturally from where we were as parents. I am so thankful for our lifestyle and that my children have blossomed as intelligent, thoughtful, kind (mostly) and conscientious young women. I couldn't wish anything more for them than what they have.